Disney’s Gospel

Disney gospel

We just spent a week celebrating our 40th anniversary at Disney World in Orlando, staying at a Disney resort. Disney actually runs a multinational media conglomerate. Besides the studios (film, theatres), theme parks and resorts, merchandising (toys, clothing), media (television, publishing), interactive (internet, computer games), it also has a vast supporting network of cruise lines, shuttle buses transporting customers to and from the parks and hotels.

As a marketer, Disney does a good job to protect its brand name. The products are generally good quality, prices are mid-market to appeal to the masses, promotion is well done with their in-house facilities, and place or distribution is good with both proprietary and non-proprietary outlets. Yet from a Christian perspective Disney is not gospel-friendly, despite its reputation for family entertainment.

For one thing, there is very little reference to God, the Bible, or anything Judeo-Christian in its films and theme parks. In thousands of small towns across America, you will find one or more churches on its Main Street, but not so in Disney’s Main Street. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, 76% of the US adult population identified themselves as Christians. If companies are supposed to cater to the preferences of the majority of their clients, there is little evidence of that here, as one would be hard-pressed to find in Disney any overt appeal to Christians.

Disney’s own explanation is that it did not want to favour any particular denomination. But if that’s the case, then it’s very strange to see explicit expressions of alternative religions, such as Hinduism’s “circle of life” in Lion King, or Animism’s tree spirits in Pocahontas. While Disney “believes” in the supernatural, it isn’t the God of the Bible, but the magical power of fairies (e.g. Cinderella) and witches (e.g. Snow White)! Somehow there seems to be a sense of anything will do, except Christian!

Secondly, while Disney teaches moral lessons such as good will overcome evil, be good and you will be rewarded etc., the emphasis is on “works”, not “faith”. There is faith to be sure, though not faith in God, but faith in yourself. Dream and your wish will come true. Do your best. Try hard. All this is good in terms of work ethics and being motivational, but the focus is on self and bad theology. It places a high value on human nobility while downplaying his depravity, and a low or no value on divine grace.

In fact, I see a greater threat to Christianity in being ignored than opposed. Throughout history the church had been oppressed but flourished. But when she had been pushed aside as insignificant and ignored, and even Christians are lulled into thinking nothing is wrong, then it becomes very dangerous, because Christianity is being marginalized without Christians realizing it, all in the name of fun and entertainment. Although the Disney family claims their founder to be very religious, in the end, they believe business is business. And if they can embrace the 24% while hanging onto the 76% who are asleep, that’s very good business. Lk 16:8 For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. Think that one through.

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